The Arrangement

by Maldoror


Part Thirty-Seven: Chinese Poles, Part III

Wufei watched the steam rise from the kettle, hypnotized. It was a pale ghost in the grey light of early dawn.

He'd have to call Sally tomorrow, if he didn't sleep any better again tonight. She'd probably revoke his clean bill of health. And he couldn't blame her. What if this happened during a mission?

It wouldn't happen during a mission. Heero would be with him. And Heero, more than the safe-house, more than the elaborate security system, more than the Luger on his bedside table, was the key to Wufei feeling Safe.

Wufei closed his eyes.

Damn Susan. So ironic. She'd hounded him for revenge, for something he'd only been a helpless participant in. He'd sidestepped her trap. And fallen promptly into another. She'd laugh if she knew. She had her revenge after all. She'd succeeded where Tsubarov and several OZ interrogators had failed; she'd broken the Dragon.

He'd been trying to deny it these past three weeks, struggling so hard to get back to normal. But these five days alone, the lack of sleep nibbling at his barriers, had left him exhausted and facing the bitter truth. What he'd said to Quatre, bleeding and broken inside, could not be unsaid, unlearned. He was weak. Pitifully weak. And very stupid, to fasten himself to someone like Heero. He'd created his own hell.

Wufei opened his eyes. Detached, he reached out his hand and wafted it through the steam, back and forth, breaking it into small smoke signals. Playing with the humid heat across the palm of his hand.

He didn't even know what he wanted from Heero. He couldn't put it into words. When he tried, it sounded wrong. He could only draw out its contours, like he was carving up the steam, and it was just about as evanescent. Affection? Tenderness? Quatre's words came back to him. No. Wufei felt it to the depth of his soul. He liked the fact that he and Heero were two tigers. He liked being with someone who could claw at his weaknesses, hone him like a blade. He had to fight to get Heero to call him an equal, but that made it worth while!

...But it turned out that he wasn't Heero's equal. He'd slipped from the edge of perfection, and he had become, obviously, replaceable.

His fist closed over the steam, but it escaped him, trickling over his knuckles. He should probably turn the heat off now. But he couldn't tear his eyes away from the wispy white trail.

It was up to him to earn his place once more! The Antarctica job was not an arduous mission; Sally had assured him of that. For something harder, more desperate, Wufei would make sure that Heero would take no one else but him!

He waited for the flash of pride and arrogance that should accompany that thought. When it materialized, it was as inconsistent as the vapor rising from the furiously hissing kettle.

Yeah, he could cut that shape out of the vapor. What he wanted from Heero... was for his partner to stick with him even now, when he was struggling to regain his edge. Come what may.

Because Wufei would do that for Heero.

His fist was turning in and out of the hot vapor, but the realization of where his dazed mind had brought him once more burned much hotter, a sick, shameful heat like something that had fermented until it was ready to burst. He'd always been taught to never rely on others, never weaken himself for others, always stay aloof, detached. The perfect warrior was one who never faltered because of his feelings.

The perfect warrior was Heero Yuy.

Wufei shook himself, and he turned off the heat beneath the kettle with a snap. Irritated, he poured the water into the mug, watching it rise and color, swirls of brown.

Enough. He'd learned to dominate his worry over Heero when on a mission; he'd vanquish this as well. He'd prove to both Heero and himself that he could still be the soldier's partner. The anger - that had only been momentarily banked, hardly gone - returned, smoldering. Anger was easier to deal with than the morass of emotions that lurked at the edge of the exhausted numbness in his mind.

He watched the weaker stream of vapor rise from the mug, along with the scent of white tea. What should he do today, while that bloody partner of his was probably getting his useless ass killed in Antarctica? He'd been training himself to the edge of fatigue for days now, chasing sleep that still eluded him. Running the obstacle course yet again was probably not wise, not without a break. He wanted his physical fitness to be at its best when Heero returned. What else? Studying was pointless. It got real boring staring at the same page for hours on end, while the characters danced before his eyes and refused to make much sense. He didn't feel like talking to anybody. He had a few chores, but-

His hand was at his belt before he remembered that the Luger was upstairs, on his bedside table. He stared, wide-eyed, and then he recognized, in that next instant, the figure that was at the door.

Heero stared back at him; he'd managed to open the door and startle Wufei, busy zoning out over a cup of tea. Great way of proving that he was back on the edge! Good job, Chang!

"You're up early," were Heero's first words. It was six in the morning, Wufei conceded silently, while a small part of him, the part he wanted to cut out with his sword, flinched at the implied criticism in that cold greeting; not sleeping was bad news in regards to his recent history.

He cast around for something to say, more and more desperately as the seconds dragged by and Heero started to frown. His partner closed the door, set the lock automatically, dumped a duffel bag and a rifle-case on the floor, and walked towards the kitchen area without even removing his boots.

"How was the mission?" Wufei muttered, trying to keep his voice from cracking from disuse.

Heero shrugged. His eyes were still on Wufei's face.

"That good, huh?" Since Heero wasn't answering, Wufei had to provide both halves of the conversation.

"It was alright." Heero's voice was soft. He seemed to change his mind at the last minute, and, instead of walking up to Wufei, he went to sit on the stool behind the counter.

Wufei wanted to ask what Armand's performance had been like, but the tiny part of him he was beginning to loathe had hidden his voice again. It was afraid of the answer. Coward.

Heero shifted. His hands were clasped in front of him. Wufei wondered why he didn't go take a shower, or go to bed, or say something. He just watched, as Wufei took the tea strainer and carefully put it in the sink.

"What's this?" Heero tilted his head to read some characters flowing down a sheet of white paper on the counter. Wufei had the distinct impression that was not the question Heero had wanted to ask.

"Replying to a letter from my uncle Wai," Wufei answered, before taking a sip of tea, standing in front of the sink unit next to the kettle. He didn't feel like moving. His stool, next to Heero's, seemed to stare at him from under the island counter like a neglected friend.

"How is he?" Heero's voice couldn't be more neutral if it had been painted beige.

"Pretty good," Wufei replied. "He's over that virus that kept him bedridden last month and he's now back in business. He's coming to Earth next week, visiting some of the reconstruction sites throughout China." Why are we talking about this... "Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou... " Why didn't you wait for me, you know Sally might have certified me that very day. "He's very enthusiastic about it."

"Sounds like quite a tour."

"Yes, over a month." You don't give a fuck about Uncle Wai; you've never met him. Why are we chatting about him? "He takes time to visit the museums in the various towns, meet some of our far-flung family members who've migrated to Earth. He's invited me to join him; he never took my disownment very seriously. And he knows I've never even been to some of these cities. But-"

"Maybe you should go."

Wufei froze, the mug not quite touching his lips.

Heero was looking at his hands, clasped on the counter.

"What?" Wufei rather hoped he'd misunderstood that.

Heero glanced up at him then down again. "Maybe you should go. It's only a month. You could visit your-"

"Are you trying to get rid of me?!"

Wufei's words were nearly covered by the crash of his mug shattering as he slammed it down on the counter. He tossed the broken-off handle towards the sink without even looking, fury, disbelief and pain numbing him like freezing ice water.

Heero stared, eyes wide. Then he frowned and stood up.

"What is this?! 'Only a month'?! I've been out of action for over two! Do you think-"

He'd been gesturing and shouting, and Heero was suddenly right in front of him. Wufei started back as two strong hands grasped his own. The gesture was so unexpected, so... intimate. Wufei's anger stalled, while his body reacted quite differently to the touch, the promise that might-

Until he realized Heero was looking at his palm intently. Checking for shards from the shattered mug.

He tried to snatch his hand away. Heero looked at him then. Blue eyes somber, searching his face, showing not the slightest signs of worry at being within arms' reach of a furious warrior. After Wufei tugged again, Heero let his hand slip free. Fortunately, as Wufei was about to strike him with the other.

"I just thought you might need a break," Heero's voice was the usual monotone. A bit weary, though.

"A break. Right, because my last three weeks have been so strenuous!" Wufei sneered savagely. "Well, you may not need me, Yuy, but I'm sick and tired of sitting around-"

Wufei started and almost struck back instinctively as two hands, lightning fast, fastened on either side of his face. The touch was so unusual that it stilled him as effectively as a nerve pinch. He felt his skin, his body, flush, but not with anger.

"I need you."

The words were simple, spontaneous. Firm. Wufei gaped, pinned by Heero's hands around his face and blue eyes holding him just as securely.

A blur, and he was staring at rough brown locks, and a mouth was pressing against his own.

Wufei was frozen, his mind stuttering over a protest he couldn't seen to formulate.

A strong hand gripped his waist, pulled them roughly together.

Wufei finally stirred, lifted his hands hesitantly. To push Heero away... probably. Words were bubbling up in his mind. This doesn't solve anything- this doesn't answer my questions - why did you leave-

An alien sensation against his lips. A gentle flicker of tongue.

Wufei started, but Heero's hand at his waist kept them pressed together. Wufei's mouth opened instinctively in a gasp lost in the other's mouth, and Heero's tongue took advantage of the opportunity, to caress Wufei's. His legs were nudged apart, Heero's thigh brushing against him.

The nascent thoughts, protests and questions were fed to a beast called lust. It roared, it purred. It promised that this would make everything right again, it would solve all the problems...

Just... don't think...

Teeth clicked gently against each other. A hand tilted Wufei's chin, then caressed his jaw, his throat. The tongue inside his mouth moved slowly, investigating every shiver it could find.

Wufei's hand had somehow snared itself in rough hair. The other one was at Heero's waist. Bodies pressed together. Skin, cloth, cloth, skin; all one warmth. The zipper of Heero's combat jacket's pocket was pulling slowly, one tooth at a time, across Wufei's nipple. His legs were caught awkwardly against Heero's, until the latter shifted, brushed Wufei's groin. The hilt of a utility knife in Heero's thigh holster was an uncomfortable counterpoint but most of it was pleasure. Wufei found himself shifting to rub again, and he shivered as his hardening erection was teased by a seam in the rough fatigues.

The warm touch in his mouth pulled back, faded. He was left panting, lips open.

Heero's voice was soft, breath fluttering on Wufei's lips, against his tongue, before a warm mouth fastened on his again: "Watch your feet; shards on the floor."

Hmmm... What floor...

A hand drew a light caress down his back, rested on his hip, then dipped lower, to his thighs. Heero lifted slowly. Wufei found his legs rising and fastening around Heero's hips.

...on the counter... ? Against the wall... ?

Heero's tongue taunted his, curled, prowled around his mouth. His hands were hard on Wufei's thighs, as he maneuvered them towards the stairs. He stopped exploring Wufei's mouth to avoid biting his partner's tongue while he climbed the steps. Breath peppered and tickled Wufei's neck, hair caressed his cheek. The jolt of Heero's movements sent red hot pleasure through Wufei's veins.

Hmm, don't like to be carried. 'M not a damn woman...

Don't think...

His feet touched the floor - no more shards. They were in his room. Near the bed. But they weren't lying down.

Heero moved, palming Wufei's ass and rocking his hips forward at the same time. A slow, sensuous rhythm, while his tongue returned to its exploration. A faint memory stirred. L3... the club... Wufei's pulse was thundering in his throat, his wrists, his chest and groin. A distant flicker of surprise - he wasn't getting thrown on the bed. Not even getting his clothes pulled off. Heero's hips thrust. Pressure and warmth against Wufei's erection. His breath caught in a gasp, lost in Heero's mouth. The only music he could hear was his heartbeat as it melded into the silent rhythm.

A hand slipped beneath his tee-shirt. Just the fingertips, brushing his skin. Unusually delicate touches. They made him feel light and tingly, instead of pawed at and savage.

The bed touched his back. His clothes started to come off. Slowly.

Heero dropped small kisses, licks and nips on Wufei's skin as it appeared. His fingers were so gentle that Wufei could barely feel them, only the after-image of pleasure they left on his skin. Occasionally they were so light they tickled, and he squirmed and flinched away. They'd come back and soothe the irritated skin with stronger strokes, a bit clumsy but learning as they went along. Wufei was shivering continuously now.

His own hands were following their usual pattern, pawing at Heero, his clothes, the skin beneath. Heero said nothing, but his movements were insidious, edging away from the violence they usually courted, returning nothing but those light annoying touches that were, for some reason, not really as annoying as they should be. Wufei's fingers slipped over zippers and buttons, he grumbled inarticulately as the prize twisted out of his way, pulling them gently from his grasp, forcing him to fumble and make his way in slowly.

The mouth that refused to bite and claim as it usually did, dropped to Wufei's throat, gently licked his chest. Lips, tongue, and teeth briefly teased his nipple before Wufei squirmed; he'd never liked that sensation, it felt odd, with only a very tiny echo of pleasure that couldn't begin to compensate for the overall unpleasantness. Heero immediately stopped, breath trickling over the wet patch he'd left - that wasn't so bad - then dropped further down, slowly.

Wufei's hands had finally managed to get Heero's chest bare. The boots thumped on the floor at some point, too. He heard the clink of a belt buckle being unfastened, and it set his heart to pulsing in his chest, his cock twitching. Heero managed to somehow lose his fatigues with minimal movements while his tongue played unhurriedly over Wufei's abs. Wufei lay back, unable to reach much of his partner now, and unwilling to move, to try, to think. To wonder what had happened to the two mating and fighting tigers that usually occupied the bed...

His hands remembered the routine. They scrabbled blindly at the bedside table's drawers. Pulled out the lube. He thrust it down blindly, towards his waist where a tongue was exploring the curve of his hipbone. The tube was tugged gently from his fingers, and he let a hand push his right leg further out of the way. Yes, there was no doubt as to who was going to get fucked at this point.

And god, he wanted it... his manly pride, the tiger within, had apparently been tamed by the pleasure petting him into a submission he couldn't even despise.

The sound of the tube opening was almost as erotic as the sound of the belt buckle had been. He stilled the shivers, relaxing himself and getting ready-

"Uhn!" Eyes shot open. He'd been expecting- but there was slick, wet, tantalizing heat around his erection instead, a tongue slowly tracing the dips and veins. The surprise threatened to shatter the shell around his mind, thought contaminating the pleasure - Too soon! Didn't make sense! Heero only ever went down on him to finish him off -

What was happening?! Why was Heero being so-

He'd been distracted from the more familiar feel of a lubed finger easing into him, the little stretch that teased the sensitive nerves into wanting more. Heero changed the angle slightly, slowly drawing the finger over and across - Wufei forgot to breathe, and when Heero took more of his cock into his mouth and sucked lightly, he forgot to think, too. He stared at the black light breaking into fractal patterns against his eyelids and let the beast play again, unfettered.

Wufei's breath was rasping in his lungs, a moan lurking behind the harsh sound. It thundered in his head. His fingers were caught in rough hair. Not fast enough! The rhythm was too slow, too-... neck muscles like steel bands tightened against Wufei's frantic efforts, keeping the same tortuous pace; fingers bruised Wufei's hips to keep him from moving, Heero's weight on his legs pinning him down. Something dark and lustful purred deep within him at this feeling of being made helpless, unable to refuse the pleasure. He muttered a few curses - could distinctly feel Heero's mouth tighten and curve into a smirk where it was fastened around him - and just let it happen.

A few more fingers he was only distantly aware of. Stinging as they went a bit too quickly. Dark pulsing red bliss as they nonetheless found his prostate and used it ruthlessly.

Then the stimulation stopped. He'd not come though, Heero had never increased the speed of the languid movements around Wufei's cock to the rhythm he should know as well as his pulse by now.

Wufei licked his lips and cracked open an eye - oh, no wonder everything had been dark - and tried to focus. The fingers had stopped stretching him and were now fastened, gummy, wet and warm, on his right hip, lifting him to - blunt pressure at his entrance. Ahhh, this part he knew. He rolled his hips up a bit; the hands steadied him and Heero's erection forced its way in. Stretching pain mingled with the pleasure - not prepped quite enough, but gods he couldn't have taken much more and from the way Heero's harsh breathing echoed his own, he wasn't the only one.

His hands left whatever they were furiously gripping to grasp his erection, instinctively. His body was on the edge and he wanted to- he just wanted!

Hands captured his own, tugged them gently away from his cock and pressed them up and back against the bed, at shoulder height. Fingers laced with his, in a gesture that made Wufei pause, and feel a simple joy, quite distinct from the lust and the frantic need. The hands were no longer at his hip though. Wufei lifted his legs up high around Heero's waist to keep them together and deepen the angle of penetration.

They were both gasping. Heero's mouth was a breath away from his own now, that same breath played sensuously across Wufei's lips.


Wufei's eyes shot open. Heero's face, flushed, was near. Blue eyes bore down into his. Wufei swallowed. Heero never asked- Heero knew Wufei's body, knew when he was ready but- but Heero wasn't moving, was waiting for his- his consent, his involvement, his request for -... Wufei nodded - he was blushing like a fucking virgin. The strange pleasure, half shameful half delighted, at asking for this, asking for Heero to do this to him, burned along his skin, his face, neck, chest, all the way down to his loins.

He shivered as Heero pulled back slightly, pushed forward. Wufei watched Heero's eyes become hooded, his lips part as he thrust back in fully, then rocked back again... fingers tightened, palm against palm, as they held Wufei's hands down on the bed. Heero's body pinned his own just as effectively, using his weight to block Wufei's own tentative efforts to accelerate the rhythm. Wufei could only watch the body above his flex, back and forth, pulling and pushing at the pleasure within him, watch his lover's face as he took him, the pleasure his body was giving Heero written across his features, dimming his eyes... Heero shifted. Vision disappeared. White hot pleasure took its place as Heero moved the same way again, thrusting slowly and deliberately -

Again. And again. Wufei finally managed to let the air out of his lungs, a rush ending in a cry as the pleasure hit him again, in quickening peaks, like the spikes of his pulse, heart thundering... Heero's mouth fastened on his briefly, hovered to catch his tortured pants, licked his lips.

Wufei tugged frantically at the hand pinning his down. He needed- he needed- Heero's weight foiled him. The thrusts were fast now, savage, deep, and he needed-

Sweat freed his fingers, they slithered from Heero's fierce grasp. His cock was hot and echoing his frantic pulse beneath his hand, which started a rhythm of its own, clashing with Heero's. Wufei licked his lips; they were suddenly cold, without Heero's breath to warm them. His eyes opened. Heero had leaned back a bit - Heero's eyes were no longer - he was looking down. Watching as Wufei-

Wufei twisted and arched, his knuckles slamming into Heero's abs as he pulsed beneath his fingers. oh god, now...

"Ahh!" The shout - not his - beyond shouting - crashed into his hot red bliss, pushed it further, unlocked areas that had never known pleasure before and obliterated them, sweet death...

Heero's harsh gasps thundered against the sensitized skin of Wufei's shoulder. Wufei had ripped his other hand free and was clinging to Heero so hard his arms were cramping. He was wrapped around him, around his lover's body, around the throbbing wet heat within him. Heero's hips flexed in the aftershocks of his own climax. Wufei stared at the opposite wall over Heero's shoulder, stunned.

With a gasp, he let go, his arms losing all their berserker strength in a rush, leaving him stranded against the sheets. He swallowed and his eyes closed. He didn't even wince as Heero untangled them and pulled back, out. The sudden absence of warmth against his body made him shiver, but the feeling distant. He was... tired...

And he didn't want to start thinking again. He flinched away from that. There was pain there. And... he just wanted to sleep. He wanted to be asleep when Heero got up and went to his own bed or wherever he decided to go now...

Wufei turned over on his side, pulling his pillow towards him automatically. The brush of softness against his face was a feather touch of pleasure; he buried into it with a sigh.

Creak of bed, weight shifting. Rustle at the bedside table. It reminded Wufei that he had to get a towel to- ugh, this was going to stop him from sleeping, he hated the way semen cooled to tepid on his skin, against his thighs as-

The touch was so soft and hesitant it took him a second to recognize it for what it was. Cloth, rough like a cat's tongue, against his stomach. It wiped away the trickles, leaving a wet spot that quickly dried. The towel moved, a hand gently pushed it between his thighs. Wufei let his top leg curl forward instinctively, leaving the towel free to clean him. His back felt warm compared to the rest of his skin, which was beginning to shiver slightly.

...don't... think...

He shoved back an inch, into that warmth. Stillness for a few seconds, while the skin of his back warmed nicely in contact with the heat he'd wanted. Then a few more swipes along the inside of his thighs, and a tug beneath his body. Wufei growled and curled up his legs, pressing further back against warm skin, letting the sheets and covers be pulled from beneath him. Then he was warm all over as they settled over him.

Warm. Safe. Don't think.

He dropped off to sleep like someone letting go of a lifeline. The arm that settled around his waist would keep him from falling further.


Wufei's inner clock was telling him that he'd slept for two long, blissful hours, dreamless, serene, regenerating him like the dark loam under a tree's roots.

And now he was having a nightmare.

No! No more... his very soul groaned, ground down by the ceaseless, nightly pain.

He couldn't pin down what had alerted him, but something was wrong; his body felt numb, heavy, like he was somehow hauling his own corpse around. He stirred, or tried to, and whimpered as he realized he was immobilized, helpless.

"Chang?" The faintest whisper.

And now he knew. One of those. The nightmares which hurt the worst, especially when he woke up.

Oh Gods. Had it all be a dream? Had- had Heero even returned from Antarctica yet? Had he really touched Wufei like that?

No! It had all been a result of his pathetic, weak mind breaking down! Fool! He should have realized! No-one... no-one touched him like that.

Wufei tried to curl into a defensive ball but his body barely flinched. Feeling was beginning to return to his extremities, and the bad premonition he was having coalesced into an arm around his waist, someone pressed against his back.

No one ever held him like that, either. Definitely a dream.

"No... " It was meant to be a furious scream of denial, but it was barely a whisper. His lips felt as paralyzed as the rest, rough, cracked, and strangely bruised. He tried to rip himself away - from the arm around his waist, and the dream which was cheating him so badly, giving him something he wanted desperately only to snatch it away.

"Chang? You okay?"

As if responding to his wishes, the hand left his waist. Relief and agony fought over possession of his emotions. Then he realized the dream wasn't done with him yet; the hand had drifted up over his shoulder and moved a loose strand of hair from his eyes.

" ...not real... " the tiger's snarl was the mewl of a kitten, barely audible. Weak, Chang, weak! Pitiful!

"Another nightmare?" The hand drifted towards his shoulder and gave him a minute shake. His own nightmare was trying to wake him up, how precious! Even the illusory Heero didn't want to be around him and was trying to get him to dispel the hallucination. Wufei choked on the bitterness of the thought.

"Not real... Heero doesn't stay... doesn't touch... " The words of denial tumbled out onto his pillow that he could barely feel beneath his cheek, but they didn't banish the nightmare. His senses were screaming that something was wrong, but he was too lethargic to be able to react, to move.

The hand on his shoulder froze.

"Do you want me to?"

Wufei wanted to shake his head in furious denial but something was distracting him. The feel of skin brushing his back. Breath on the nape of his neck. Smell of sex, sweat, the faint laundry smell of bed sheets... Dream, Chang, it's a dream.

"Chang? Do you want me to? Or not?"

Wufei's eyes were half-open, but he couldn't see anything except for the wall next to his bed and a bit of the window, sun streaming through the blinds in a way that was obscenely cheerful considering the circumstances. He couldn't turn his head. Heero was lying behind him. No, no, he was dreaming that Heero was lying behind him!

Wasn't he?

"Wufei? What do you want me to do?" The voice was very soft but still managed to sound exasperated, and Wufei tried to shrink away.

The hand, oddly clumsy, brushed another strand of hair from his eyes, and then fell to the back of his head. Tugged gently. Wufei's hair pulled a bit, some of the smaller, individual strands prickling as the fastener caught in them and they tugged on his scalp. Tiny pain. Wufei blinked. Then the fastener slipped from his hair. Awkward fingers tugged through his locks, combing them out, catching in tangles.

Wufei blinked again, and this time, the flinch moved his slowly awakening body away from the source of pain and confusion. This gesture, with his hair - it felt familiar - Quatre had done this. His subconscious was blending Heero and Quatre together in his dream?

The hand had stilled in the ends of his hair, staying where it was as he twitched away from it.

"You don't like this... " There was a sigh; it sounded weary. Wufei's mind, slowly coming out of the fuzziness of sleep, slipped back into slight panic at that; dreams where Heero criticized him, gave up on him, were almost as bad as the other ones, the taboo dreams Wufei didn't dare remember.

"No... " Wufei wasn't even sure he was answering the dream's question, or if it was just a general protest.

"You didn't seem to mind it when Winner did it."

Wufei caught the slight mutter but didn't know what to do with it. That didn't seem to fit into any dream context. His fingers twitched, and Wufei realized he could move them again. His body was his again. It felt... oddly real.

"Why do you talk to him? Why can't you just tell me what you want?"

Wufei lay frozen on the cusp of realization.

He... he wasn't asleep.

And he doubted this was a hallucination.

Though he was beginning to wish it was.

"Whu... ?" His voice cracked. He was paralyzed, not by sleep but by rising horror.

"What can I do?" The whisper was faint, barely above the savage heart beat that was suddenly pounding in his chest. It sounded tentative but searching. It wanted an answer. "Why are you breaking down? Why now? Why is just being partners no longer enough? Why is this hurting you? Can't you just tell me how to fix this... "

Wufei, eyes wide, stared blindly at the wall. He was still frozen, but this time it was with fear. If he moved, he'd have to confront the fact that this was real. He swallowed convulsively.

" ...Chang?" The voice was suddenly at normal volume, cautious.

No. No, no, no-

Wufei slowly uncurled and rolled over, away from Heero, who was lying on his side on one elbow. The fingers he had in Wufei's hair caught, calluses in fine strands, for a second, then released him. Heero was naked still; it looked like he'd been here the whole two hours Wufei had slept. Wufei slid onto his knees, almost to the end of the bed, staring.

Things were suddenly starting to make a lot of sense.

"Winner told you-" No, that wasn't it. He remembered the gesture to release his hair. 'You didn't seem to mind it when Winner did it.' "You were there?!"

Heero lay perfectly still, his body and face unreadable.

But now Wufei had the key to the puzzle.

"You heard... " His mind was seamless and clear as crystal, containing only that one, single, luminescent fact.

"I did come back." Wufei started minutely at the words; Heero's absolute immobility had given him no clue that his partner would ever speak again. "And yes, I heard."

"You listened... " Wufei's voice was a whisper he barely recognized as his own.

"I came up the stairs just as I heard you say that you thought I would be following through with the arrest, or overseeing the crime-scene. I didn't want you to get mad at me for not doing so and coming straight back to the house. I decided to hang around outside the door until I was sure you were asleep."

... that meant Heero had heard almost everything...

He'd come back... the crystal flashed a new facet. "You... " Wufei remembered Quatre's words, ' I think he'll want to be sure you're okay... ' "You were... worried... ?" The last word was hoarse.

Heero slowly sat up. He was scowling slightly, his entire body language guarded and cautious.

"Of course I was worried. You were drugged, and you're a highly skilled warrior. If you'd snapped, grown violent, Winner wouldn't be able to do more than slow you down."

Wufei shattered.

The shards, cascading down inside him, slicing him to ribbons, looked familiar; they glittered with flashes of the past weeks, little scenes, bewildered questions, things he'd not been able to explain, suddenly tumbled through his mind and took on new meaning. So that's what these last weeks had been about. Heero had known he'd broken. Had realized he was potentially dangerous. Heero had come home, watched him. Heero had heard.

Heero knew.

The breath rattled in Wufei's throat. His lungs felt as if they belonged to somebody else. From a distance, he saw Heero's eyes widen in alarm.

Heero knew. And the past weeks... it suddenly all made sense.

He reached slowly for the loose pants at the foot of the bed, slipped them on without looking, as if they could make him feel less naked and violated.


"You were wise." Was that his voice? "I'd threatened to shoot you not an hour before; I was obviously completely unreliable."

He couldn't bear to look at Heero, but the silence drew his eyes. Heero was staring at him, sitting up, one foot on the floor, and he looked puzzled and slightly worried. The voice Wufei had heard - his own - had not sounded like it was agreeing with anything.

Heero finally spoke. "I knew you were under the influence of-"

"Yes. Interrogated. Broken. Ripped open and laid bare." The shards fell from Wufei's mouth. He saw Heero stiffen as they began to cut him too. "How fortunate you got to see what your partner is really made of. You should thank Susan when you have the occasion."

A scowl gathered like a storm cloud on Heero's face. "Thank her?"

"Yes, thank her for leaving you the tools to interrogate me again." Wufei's hand drifted towards the bed. His arm, his entire body, was beginning to vibrate with tension. "Tell me. Yuy. After I broke and told - and said that to Winner... when I slept for three days... did I also talk in my sleep while you were watching me then?"

Heero's jaw tightened.

"Do I still talk when I have nightmares? Do you creep up to my door and listen?" Was that a flinch? "Learn anything else that was any good? Tell me, was it Dr J who taught you this interrogation technique? Or did you just improvise."

"Chang, I-... " Heero's eyes dropped as he glanced at the pillow where Wufei had been fighting against a nightmare that turned out to be all too real. "I just wanted to know if what you said was true-... you never told me-"

"So you tricked me while I slept?!"

Heero was on his feet in a flash as the angry cry shattered the thick, cloying quiet.

"Why bother?! You heard all you needed to know when I talked to Winner! Shocked you, did I?! Horrified? It's a wonder you're still here!"


"Though I suppose it was your job! Obviously something this weak and pitiful, already broken once, had a good chance of breaking again. Good thing you were watching me closely! And here I was trying to- to prove myself to you again! And I thought I was succeeding! But you'd already lowered your expectations so much - I didn't have to even try, did I! You were just happy I was half-way rational and not about to shoot anybody!"

He could see Heero's mouth moving, but Wufei's shouts covered any sugar-coated medicated words his partner might be trying to use. An ugly red tide was crashing against the backs of his eyes, causing his vision to twitch; his own weaknesses rising to drown him.

Heero knew!

Everything was falling into an ugly pattern. Everything Heero had done, said these past weeks-

Inconsistencies tried to catch Wufei's attention frantically; they were brutally cast aside. Heero's professed trust, his belief in Wufei's strength- Lies, to fool and confuse him, keep him subdued! He couldn't believe them! He could no longer afford to believe in them! Some trust! Heero hadn't even had- had the respect to tell him what he'd overheard. He'd just tried to keep Wufei from flying to pieces too badly... and glue them back together into a semblance of something useful!

"Was that what you were trying to do?! Did you hope that throwing me a bone would keep me in line? Would insure that your handy sidekick didn't crack too badly under the pressure?!"

Wufei noted the way the blue eyes dilated sharply as he hit close to home.

"I used to believe that you were the perfect soldier, Yuy, but in that area you're pretty pathetic! That was the worst attempt at coddling someone I've ever seen!"

"That's bec-"

"Shut up!" Wufei's voice rose higher, louder, and Heero took a half step back that had him pressed defensively against the wall, wary. "Just tell me one thing, Yuy! What made you give up?!"

"G-give up?"

A stutter. A tiny flicker of sick pleasure; he'd knocked that proverbial stony demeanour on its ass after all. "Yes! When did you decide I was too much effort to maintain?! Was it that hard, Yuy, to be nice to me for a couple of weeks, just so you could go on a few days' mission? Not worth it, hm? At least Armand can hold your ammo and cover your back, and he doesn't require niceties when you get-"

Wufei choked, and his throat closed in a sudden wheeze, his lungs seizing. His hand fisted at his mouth as if it could stop the next words from coming out. But it was too late. The new ugly thought that had taken possession of his soul leered and sank claws into his mind, refused to let go.

"Gods... " Breath whistled and Wufei took a few deep gasps, trying to clear the obstruction, as Heero at him stared in growing alarm. Wufei didn't want to go there- but he had to know. He had to spit it out, throw it down where it could be seen.

"Wh-what is this then?!" Wufei gestured harshly, jerkily towards the soiled and rumpled sheets. "Why didn't you just tell me that I could leave with uncle Wai and not bother coming back?! Did you decide you have a use for me after all?! Was this what this was?!"

"What?" Heero's voice was low, visibly striving for calm, for control over the situation. His eyes flickered towards the bed. He was scowling, and he opened his mouth. Wufei knew it was just going to be more lies, asinine words to calm him down. No!

"So you'll be going on missions with Armand from now on? But you'll keep me around anyway? What's wrong, Yuy! Armand not interested in an arrangement?!"

Heero's eyes widened.

"Is that was this is?! You'll take care of the missions, and I'm stress relief when you get back?! Is that what I am to you now, your whore?! Your- "

"No!" Heero roared.

Wufei fell back one step, words guttering out in a gasp. Heero rarely shouted like that.

Heero's face was set in cold fury, but there was something else twisting his body; horror, pain, knotting his fists and making them tremble. But apart from that single denial, he said nothing.

Wufei took a shuddering breath. "No? Then what were these last weeks about, Yuy. Explain!"

Heero was panting as if they'd been duelling for hours. "I wanted to help you! I told you, I need you to-"

"Need me?! Yeah, I know that, Yuy!"

The words caught in Heero's mouth. "You-you know-"

"I know! I figured that out long ago! You need me! I'm your weapon, your shield - your stress relief when you get-" Heero was shaking his head violently, jaws clenching so hard that Wufei could hear teeth grind across the no man's land between them. "I may have this bloody great flaw in me, but I guess I'm still pretty useful! So you'll do what you need to, to keep me! I admire your valiant sacrifice, Yuy! You'll really do anything for the mission! You'll lie, you'll pretend, you'll go against the grain and fake a few emotions! Hell, you'll even sleep with me if that's what it'd take!" Heero twitched, eyes widening yet again. "You'll even pretend to feel more for me than your bloody mission allows, but it's all a front! A lie! Fuck, you're probably not even aware of it!"

"No... " Heero's voice was ragged. But Wufei thought the denial didn't feel like it was entirely directed at him. "That's... not true."

"Isn't it?! Tell me one thing, Yuy! Just one, single thing and for once in your life, answer me without thinking about your goddamn mission, if only- if only for- if you have any respect for me at all- if- Just tell me, what do you want from me?! Not need! Not a tool, not a utility, or a convenience; what do you want?!"

Heero blinked. That had not been the question he'd expected, apparently.


"It's pretty damn simple! What - do - you - want - fr-"

"Me?! But you're the one who wants more than -"

"I'm the one who's begging here, right?! I'm the one on his knees?! You know what, Yuy, I accepted a lot since I became your partner! My pride has been compromised, my honour put aside for the sake of the goddamned mission! But there's one thing I won't do; I won't take pity from you, or anyone! So tell me! If I'm not just a- an expediency! If any of these weeks together - if our partnership - is not a lie - what do you want from me?!"

A tremor through steel muscles, like a whisper in the silence that stretched out, measured in Wufei's gasps of breath. When he'd remember Heero, it would be his body, not his expressionless eyes, or his face. His body spoke a language that Wufei had been the only one to ever interpret and understand. Heero's solid frame trembled slightly, caging some emotion or other, or maybe the realization that Wufei was right and that there was, in fact, truly no emotions behind the cold logic; his attempts to hold Wufei together had been sheer necessity, like he'd once maintained Wing at all costs, and there was nothing else there.

Or maybe there was nothing there at all, not even that small self-knowledge; the wind blowing over empty eggshells...


"Nothing. Right," Wufei whispered, turning blindly towards the door. "Good. At least we are clear on that."

He reached for the knob - footsteps behind him. A hand landed on his arm, jerked-

Wufei reacted on reflex, more like a wounded animal fighting a trap than a warrior.

Heero made no sound as he hit the ground, his shoulder thumping against the bed, his head whipped around by the backhand to his jaw.

Wufei was out the door before Heero had even slipped further to the floor. He ran down the stairs, pounded to the front door, stepped into his boots without lacing them, grabbed his jacket but didn't shrug it over his bare chest, threw the door open and ran.


End Part 37



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